Host City: Ciudad de México, Mexico
Venue(s): Juan Escutia Palace of Sports, Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City, Ciudad de México
Date Started: October 13, 1968
Date Finished: October 23, 1968
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to single-elimination tournament.
Basketball was becoming much more of an international sport and by 1968, a United States' victory at the Olympics was no longer a foregone conclusion. The Soviet Union, in particular, was now considered a formidable obstacle to another American gold medal. They had won the European Championship in both 1965 and 1967, and the World Championship in 1967, with the United States finishing only 4th at the Worlds. Yugoslavia also had an excellent team, and had finished second to the USSR at the 1965 Europeans and the 1967 World Championship. Further, the Americans were hampered domestically by calls for a boycott of the Olympics by African-American athletes. While this never materialized, the two best US collegiate players, Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabaar) and Elvin Hayes, did not try to play for the 1968 US Olympic team.
At Mexico City, the US was led by future professional stars Spencer Haywood and Jo-Jo White. The USA narrowly defeated Puerto Rico by only 5 points in a preliminary round game, and then made it to the final by defeating Brazil 75-63. There it faced Yugoslavia, which had defeated the Soviet Union in the other semi-final. The final was close at half-time, 32-29, but the USA opened the second half with a 22-3 scoring streak, and put the game out of reach, eventually winning 65-50.